Memories of Thomas Ira Walsh
SSgt Thomas I Walsh
Photo courtesy of Claudia Walsh
Thomas I Walsh was born in Cook County, Illinois on May 17, 1914 to
Thomas Ira Walsh Jr and Helen Olive Peterson Walsh. He was the oldest of
L-R: Thomas Ira, Clifton Laurence, Harold Oliver, Homer Jerome, Olive Helen
Mr. Walsh enlisted for the service in Illinois and was given the serial
number 36606965. After gunnery school he was assigned to the 416th Bomb Group, 670 Bomb
On March 3rd and 4th the first missions list were prepared. Even though
the first missions were recalled, the crew of Lt. Crispino, SSgt Walsh
and SSgt Conopask were among the first bombers. The crew would see their
first action on mission 7, March 20, 1944. Their assigned aircraft was 43-9224.
The A-20 was among 28 aircraft that took off from the Wethersfield Airbase in
England heading for the Foret Nationale Tournehem, France. All but five
planes received flak hits, according to Ralph Conte's book, Attack
Bombers We Need You.
Until May 19, 1944, the crew managed to avoid flak, thick black gun
powder walls around targets and Germany fighter planes. Mission #49 would
be their last. The bombing destination was the coastal installations at Benerville,
France. The crew was Pilot - 1st Lt Joseph C. Crispino, Gunner - SSgt Walsh and Gunner -
SSgt Royden E. Conopask. The 416th Bomb Group had sent thirty-eight
bombers to destroy the defense battery. The bombs were released with
The formation headed back to the base through a thick overcast. Suddenly
Lt Joseph Crispino's plane 43-9696 went into a spin and spun out of
control. He could not save the plane and ordered his two gunners, SSgt
Thomas I. Walsh and SSgt Royden E. Conopask to bail out.
Then Lt Crispino jumped, his body was thrown against the plane's tail
assembly fracturing his leg. He parachuted to earth hoping to land on
his uninjured leg. The gunners never got out of the aircraft and were
killed when the plane crashed near Biggin Hill, England.
Lt Crispino fell into friendly hands and was taken to a local hospital.
to convalesce, he was transferred to an Evacuation Hospital.
The following was taken from the 670 Bomb Squadron record: "Sadness
descended upon the organization on May 19th, when, after 369 sorties
without loss, the squadron was deprived of two of its best known and best
liked members. SSgt Royden E. Conopask, of Bristol, Connecticut and SSgt
Thomas I. Walsh of Chicago, Illinois, two veteran gunners were killed in
action returning from a raid on the Bennerville Costal Defense
Batteries. The ship, piloted by Lt. Crispino, went into a spin at 5,000
feet over Biggenhill, England. Lt. Crispino was able to bail out and
parachute to safety. He was injured in the descent and hospitalized.
However, SSgt Conopask amd SSgt Walsh were unable to get out the
aircraft and met death with its crash. The loss of these two men was
keenly felt by the organization. They had been among the first gunners
assigned to the squadron after its activation."
The remains of the two gunners were interred at the Cambridge American
Military Cemetery, Cambridge.
Capt Moore and Lt Geffinger took a representative of the squadron to
the American Military Cemetery in Cambridge to attend the burial of SSgt
Conopask and SSgt Walsh. In a simple but impressive military ceremony,
tribute was paid to the members of our squadron who had died in combat.
The brave gunner was awarded the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters for
flying 24 missions for his country.
SSgt Walsh is buried in plot E, Row 2, grave 98.
He left a wife, Marion Edna Wood behind to mourn his loss. His country
mourns his loss still and thanks him for his service to keep us safe.